Are Antidepressants Over-Prescribed?
A quarter of Americans taking antidepressant medications were never diagnosed with major depression or any other psychiatric disorder, a new study out of The University of Manitoba in Canada finds.
The study, conducted by Jina Pagura and her colleagues, and reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, looked at records from the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemologic Surveys, which collected survey data from a representative sample of 20,000 American adults between 2001 and 2003.
In the surveys, 1 in 10 adults reported taking antidepressant medication. However, of those taking the medications, approximately 25% had never been officially diagnosed by a physician as having one of the major psychiatric conditions for which antidepressants are often prescribed, such as clinical depression or anxiety disorders.
Pagura surmised that this 25% was probably prescribed drugs after going to their physicians complaining of difficulties with life issues such as relationship problems, trouble sleeping, or poor mood. Her concern is that although antidepressants might improve such personal problems, the problems could have gone away on their own, or with the help of non-pharamceutical interventions.
Medical claims analysis support this trend of prescription-without-diagnosis when it comes to antidepressants. Columbia University psychiatrist Mark Olfson says that only about 50% of prescriptions for antidepressants are accompanied by an official dianosis of a psychiatric disorder.
Now, here's where I tell you what I think about this. I have no doubt that the results of these studies are accurate. I understand the medical professionals' concerns about side effects and consumption of potentially unnecessary chemical substances.
However, I don't like the message that these studies send. To me, the studies say that antidepressants are often an unnecessary crutch, a cop-out for people who don't care to solve their own problems. People will argue that this is another indication of the American attitude that you can just pop a pill and fix everything.
But I'm going to guess, based on my own personal experiences and anecdotal evidence, that almost all people taking antidepressants actually need them. If a problem is serious enough that a person will actually take the time to make a doctor's appointment, go through the hassle of the doctor's office experience, pay a co-pay, and 'fess up to personal problems in the space of a clinical medical office, I think medical intervention is likely necessary. So what if the doctor doesn't write the name of a psychiatric condition on the patient's chart before prescribing medication? Does that mean the person's problem isn't serious?Continued on the next page